Bashir Abdel 'Aal

Art of the Arabian Flute: The Nay

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The title is a misnomer: the word "nay" is Persian and the instrument seems to have originated in ancient Egypt, which was not Arabic. But never mind. The nay is a beautiful flute blown obliquely across the end with a few holes covered by the fingers, a bit like a recorder. It has an impressive range, a breathy tone, and is capable of pleasing effects like trills. In the Middle East the nay is sometimes part of an orchestra, as in Ney Nava by Iranian composer Hossein Alizadeh, and sometimes a solo instrument, accompanied at most by percussion. On this album, the nay is accompanied by synthesizers. It is accompanied "sensitively," according to the cover, and for once this is true. The synth is very much in the background, maybe a little too much. It sometimes provides a quasi-bass part (Arabic music does not use harmony, remember) as well as atmospheric shimmers and sometimes voices. It sometimes sounds less like music and more like a manipulation of the acoustics. There is also some subtle sequencing going on. The pieces tend to sound a bit alike, but Abdel Al never descends into noodling. Recommended only for lovers of the Middle Eastern flute. The track at the end, "Laglin Nabbi," features percussion for its first 90 seconds and that part at least is more listenable as a result.

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